What to Do If You Have Had a Data Breach in Your Company?

What to Do If You Have Had a Data Breach in Your Company
Data breaches are increasingly common in our digital world. If you should have a data breach, the most important thing is responding promptly and effectively to mitigate any financial and reputational damage. Here we explore the steps you need to take if your company has a data breach.

Immediate Steps to Take after a Data Breach

Assess the Breach

The first thing to do after a data breach has happened is assess the breach itself. Review the type of information that has been involved and its level of sensitivity, look at the cause of the data breach and the extent of its impact, assess the nature of the harm done and who has been affected and what damage can be removed with remedial action.

Contain the Breach

Containing the data breach involves taking immediate action to limit the extent of the damage done. This could include various steps depending on the type of data breach such as shutting down the affected system, recovering records, revoking computer access privileges or stopping unauthorised access. What you decide to do will always depend on the specific situation. For example, shutting down the system may not be practical if it destroys evidence that could be helpful to identify the origins of the breach.

Notify Key Personnel

A crucial part of the aftermath of a data breach involves notifying all relevant personnel who may be impacted.

Understanding the Scope of the Breach

Identify Affected Systems and Data

You will need to review your system and data to understand the full scope of the breach, including reviewing logs to see had access to data at the time of the event, see if encryption was enabled at the time, analyse current access and potentially restrict if not necessary. Also analyse backup or preserved data to understand what data is missing or compromised.

Determine the Source of the Breach

The next stage is understanding the origin of the data breach. It may be necessary to carry out a digital forensic investigation at this stage to analyse network traffic, system logs and other evidence to determine where the breach started.

Assess the Damage

To gain a full picture of the breach and its impact, you will need to assess the damage done. A good way to do this is by performing a data inventory to see which data has been accessed and who has been affected. This will also help you know how much the data breach or cyber attack has cost.

How to Communicate a Data Breach

After a data breach, you need to first communicate it internally. It is important to have a comprehensive communications plan in place which prepares communication for everyone impacted – employees, customers, investors and stakeholders. It is important to never make any misleading statements about what is going on to save you problems in the future. Also, do not withhold any important information that may help affected parties protect themselves. When communicating externally, make sure any updates are brief and clear with only details which are absolutely necessary. Make sure to adopt a reassuring tone sharing that all impacted parties have been notified and supported. The key thing here is to mitigate any reputational damage. Legally, in the UK, you must notify affected parties within 72 hours of becoming aware of the data breach, wherever possible.

Going Forward After a Data Breach

After a data breach, it is important to review and improve security policies to prevent a similar thing happening again. Part of this is introducing regular security audits and penetration testing as part of an ongoing security plan as well as training employees on the best cybersecurity practices. You need to make sure that systems and data are restored safely and completely. Make sure any affected parties are supported. This involves answering any questions they may have, letting them know the steps they can take themselves and assuring them what you are doing to protect their data in the future.

Closing Thoughts

Adopting a proactive approach to cybersecurity and implementing ongoing vigilance is crucial for protecting against potential data breaches. In the unfortunate event of a data breach, having a plan can help you take immediate action and mitigate damage.